Every week, Our Town will celebrate our 45th anniversary by profiling a neighborhood business that has been around longer than we have. Know of a local business that should be on our list? Email us at email@example.com
Jerome Florist has been doing business on the corner of Madison Avenue and 96th street since 1929. But how the shop got its name harkens back to even before then, to its founding by William Stamos, the father of its current owners and operators, brothers Peter and Constantine.
“My dad first had a flower shop in the Bronx, so when he moved to Manhattan, he named it for the street where his career began — Jerome Avenue,” Peter Stamos, 59, said. “For five-plus decades, he was known as ‘Mr. Jerome’ to most of the customers.”
Outside the long-standing shop, small plants and baskets of Italian lavender and dried eucalyptus are displayed for sale. Hanging just above the cash register is a black-and-white photograph from 1939 of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s motorcade riding right past the then-decade-old shop. Inside the bustling store, glass and metal vases line shelves, and flowers of varied colors and scents are everywhere else, including on tables and in a large refrigerator. Peter Stamos points out that along with roses of multiple colors and sizes, the shop carries more exotic flowers including both Oriental and Aisiatic lilies, lisianthus and hyacinths, which, though rare for July, are shipped in a few times a week from Holland.
On a Thursday morning, the shop’s head floral arranger, Marta Rapa, worked on a collection of tall, cylindrical glass vases filled with sunflowers, green dianthus and eremurus. These vases were then shipped to Williamsburg to be used as a lobby arrangement for a developing condominium.
Although much of the shop’s business comes from large accounts, such as the private schools, the Jewish Museum and the 92nd Street Y as well as from weddings and bar mitzvahs, people still walk in regularly for hand-assembled bouquets.
Jennifer Cheever, 27, works nearby at Mount Sinai and picks up a “collection of beautiful flowers” every couple of weeks. Her purchase on this particular Thursday celebrated her birthday. The designs from Jerome, she said, are “better than you can get anywhere else.”
What makes flowers from Jerome Florist more special, than say the 10 roses for $10 at a grocery store? “Just like a higher quality clothing brand, we provide better service, higher-grade flowers, and with our designers, we provide very special styles and looks,” Peter Stamos said.
Stamos, who left a career in banking in the mid-1980s to join his older brother in the family business, attributes much of their success to their father. “We got our business acumen from him.” But he added, “We’ve also been blessed with a landlord, which is also a family business. ... We are charged a fair market rate.”
Speaking of his father, Stamos remembers that he loved children and would always give them flowers, gratis.
“To this day I have customers into their 70s who tell me that Mr. Jerome used to give them a flower every time they came in,” he said. “My brother and I try to continue that tradition in his memory.”
While admitting to the pressures of running a business, Stamos is generally very pleased.
“With the aim to make people happy, there are beautiful flowers around me all the time,” he said. “I’m blessed to make a living at this.”